How to trick brain during long steady fixed-power intervals?

It’s been a year since I purchased my 1st road bike on April 30, 2019. How time flies! I am currently at week 6 of Sustained Power Build MV. My training has been consistent and I have never felt this strong & fit on the bike. So, THANKS, TrainerRoad!

I’ve seen many people saying they found O/U workouts most challenging. However, I always find those Threshold intervals with longer minutes at a fixed power most challenging. For instance, the Budawang+3 workout I did on Wednesday has “5x9-minute intervals at 102% FTP”. The 9-minute flat just felt so long, especially when I started to feel fatigue. Minute 4-7 usually feels the hardest.

By comparison, O/U intervals such as McAdie +1 I did today, the full interval is 12 minutes; but those mini-sections within each interval are only 1-2 minutes. Even though the interval itself is longer (12 vs. 9), my brain was actually tricked that I would always have a 1-minute mini break after every 2-minute work instead of pushing effort for 9 minutes! Having 1:10 left is MENTALLY much more tolerable than having 4:10 left!

Do you guys feel the same as I do? What are some tips that I can use to deceive my brain to go through those long-minute intervals a bit more easily? Thanks!


That’s exactly how McAdie+1 feels for me. It always catches me off guard when I start viewing the unders as a recovery valley.

Whenever I have long flat intervals I have to distract myself from clock watching. Race videos are the best thing for this in my opinion.


I have a loud Bluetooth speaker and some tunes :slight_smile: the podcast is also good.


Welcome to TT life! I agree with you any workout that has a lot of fluctuation (over unders, baxter-esque, ramps) feel easier compared to steady state at the same average power, for me they’re more mentally engaging, keeping track of how many I’ve done, how many I have left, how much time I have left, etc…

What works for me: Recognize the feeling of working right at threshold and work on mentally processing the feeling. It’s a hard effort, but it’s sustainable, and let it become the new normal. There are plenty of mental tricks people use, but my favorites are counting RPM’s, switching my hand position every minute or so, and every minute stand for 5-10 pedal strokes. I also listen to music that helps me hit that ‘flow state’.

Budawang +3 is properly hard, so kudo’s to you for getting through it!


If it’s compatible with the workout, I’ll sometimes break long blocks up and vary my cadence. Today I did Hunter (3x20 minutes at SS) and every five minutes in those blocks I’d switch between 85 and 90 rpm.


I do this too. It really works.

I also just lie to myself. 3 mins into an 8 minute interval i’ll tell myself that i’m half way there. 1 minute 30 seconds left becomes “Just 1 more minute, anyone can do that”


I find this to be true even on lower power workouts. I would MUCH rather do a 90 minute Baxter than a 60 minute Echo - 4.

To answer your question, I feel like I have lots of things to distract me outside and I need that inside too. If I was a TT’er, I probably wouldn’t do this, but I’m not, so I will turn on an engaging Netflix or YouTube video to distract me. Either that or get on Zwift and ride while I’m doing my TR workout. The simple distraction keeping you from counting seconds is pure magic.

TT life is tough! I’ll try next time to switch hand position periodically, my brain definitely like this idea now.

Yeah I will give it a try! Thanks. I often try to hold cadence above 90. I have been cautious not to lower the cadence too much as I find my muscle normally fatigues sooner than my bumping heart rate.

I don’t do the cadence thing, but I do break the work into smaller intervals, mentally. So I just take it 5-10 minutes at a time. It seems to work well for me.

1 Like

I kind of reframe it in a way that I’m more ‘neutral’ about the sensations i’m feeling and I stop thinking about the end of the interval or the rest of the workout. So instead of trying to distract or motivate myself, I guess it’s a more distant perspective.
I don’t imagine that’s very practical advice however, and I think everyone deals with discomfort differently. I’m guessing there’s an element of experience in there too. I have also found that concentrating on my breathing and pedal stoke helps as well- if you tell yourself that you’re eliminating inefficiencies and generating the same power for less effort, I think it kind of works as a placebo.

1 Like

@RCC Yes! I like to say Xmin to go when it’s X:59. Eg“3min to go” when the clock says 3:59 (really it’s 4 minuets). From there I just count the seconds to get to the next block 30sec, 10sec, whatever depending on how much I am suffering.

michaelzhang0574, along with cadence drills, I break intervals up by trying to do some of Chad’s pedalling drills - especially concentrating on one leg and smoothing out the pressure. They make you really concentrate on technique at high power.

I use this little lie…so if the timer says 3.30 I tell myself that;s 330 seconds. Then when you go under 3 minutes you have suddenly ‘lost’ 20 seconds

Make that 40 seconds!

With one or 2 minutes to go I start counting down seconds by counting my exhales. Since even at full tachypnea, my breathing rate is less than 60/min, I usually find the interval ends before I get to a count of 0

change your hand position every two minutes. For eg: 2 minutes on the drops, 2 minutes on the handlebars, 2 minutes on the hoods

1 Like